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Traveling alone as a female can be daunting at times. Especially if you want to go off the beaten path and discover hidden gems that only locals tend to know about.

Valerie Joy Wilson of @TrustedTravelGirl has made a career out of traveling alone. She is considered a solo travel expert, photographer and travel host. Find out more in the exclusive interview below – and be sure to travel safely alone and in a group!

You are the founder of Trusted Travel Girl, and consider a solo travel expert. Are there any places you have visited as a solo traveller, especially as a female, that you consider unsafe?

Taking in the epic hues and views at Zion National Park | Valerie Joy Wilson

Yes, there are plenty of destinations which are perfect for solo female travelers, and a few where you need to be extra cautious. As much as I loved Brazil, I did NOT feel comfortable there as a solo female. I like to explore on my own, and I’m pretty fearless, but walking alone at night in Rio isn’t a good idea. I constantly felt stressed from being “on guard”. Outside of being a solo female traveler who wants to explore in great depths on her own, I think it’s a wonderful country. I made friends at the hotel I was in and made them come out in Lapa with me so I wasn’t alone. There’s always strength in numbers. Taking certified taxis and packing your common sense is a must. I have traveled to many countries that I were told was too dangerous, (Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, even Cuba) but if you do your research and keep your wits about you, hire a guide if necessary, and make smart decisions, you will be safe!

What advice can you give to solo travellers, especially females? 

I have been scuba diving all over the world in many incredible countries and it wasn’t until this week in Guadaloupe that I *finally* saw the one thing I had been dying to see… a sea turtle | Valerie Joy Wilson

  • Stop waiting for others. This is more geared towards want-to-be solo travelers, but I can’t tell you how many incredible trips I missed out on before I started solo traveling. Just do it, it will be the best decision you ever make.
  • The scariest part of the trip is booking the ticket, so if you want to go, just do it. It’s never as scary once you arrive as it is to hit the “confirm” button on the reservation.
  • The most important solo travel tip is to never look lost and to always act confident. If you exude confidence, it’s less likely someone will bother you. For example, I never look at an actual map unless I am in a hotel or bathroom, to prevent looking lost. Instead, I love the app because it’s free and they work offline, and I can just look like I’m texting and not lost.
  • Never tell anyone you are traveling alone.
  • Utilize large social media communities on Facebook to get information or meet friends—there are a lot of female groups, but I started one that welcomes the guys too Globetrotters & Travel Friends—these groups can connect travelers and lend a hand to those in need of assistance while abroad. I recently had my appendix out in Switzerland and girls I had never met from a Facebook community came to visit me at the hospital and brought me goodies. With social media you never have to be alone… just be cautious how you use it!
  • If you exude confidence, it’s less likely someone will bother you.

The focus of your blog is to “live like a local”. How can other travelers follow in your footsteps and avoid only seeing “tourist traps”? How does one find “off-the-beaten path” adventures, especially in a world where everything seems to be shared on Instagram already?

Hanging out with the locals in Kathmandu | Valerie Joy Wilson

Getting off the beaten path can mean going to a remote area of the country you are in, or it can also just mean going one or two streets over from the popular tourist areas. 
If you aren’t having luck getting away from the tourists, asking locals is the best way to find hidden gems. I’m not talking about the concierge at your hotel, he or she will almost always send you to the touristy spots despite begging for local secrets.
The best people to ask are the locals you meet at the bar and bartenders. When traveling solo, I often opt to eat at the bar instead of a table. It’s the best way to meet locals and get insight from those who live in the neighborhood you are visiting.
Using social media can help too. Posting for tips in travel groups where there may be locals answering your questions, checking out accounts of local instagrammers, and the experiences that are now offered on AIRBNB by locals are all ways to discover less touristy areas of your destination.

You have a YouTube channel, and just published a great travel video about Thailand. What equipment do you use to shoot your videos? What tips do you have for aspiring travel bloggers interested in shooting video?

St. Lucia | Valerie Joy Wilson

Thank you! Video is something I have started to put a larger focus on this past year, I love it. I use a Sony A7sii, which is incredible, has phenomenal low light capabilities but it is also very expensive. I suggest if you are just getting started to use what you have, an iPhone, a point and shoot, GoPro…. anything you can get your hands on. The most important thing is to just make the content. It might be terrible at first, but the only way you will learn and get better is by doing. Study some of your favorite travel videos or tv shows. What elements keep you engaged? Start looking for opportunities to shoot b-roll to tie it all together. Most importantly, just have fun, and your viewers will have fun following your story!

You also write for The Huffington Post. What tips do you have for young journalists looking to write for media outlets, such as The Huffington Post? Any pitching advice?

Paragliding in Pokhara was exciting and a little scary, but the ride up the edge of the mountain to get to the take-off point may have been the real adventure of the day | Valerie Joy Wilson

Yes! The best advice is not to stop pitching! If you have a great idea, pitch it everywhere you can. Do your research— every outlet has a different style and every editor has a different way they like to be pitched to.
Don’t get discouraged. It’s a numbers game, it’s throwing darts and hoping that what you have is what the editor is looking for that particular week!
Valerie shares her adventures, experiences and travel tips on her Instagram @TrustedTravelGirl & Youtube as well as her website